Saturday 27 October 2018

The Stygian Library Finished

So, the module is finally done. Here it is.
It's a project I started in June, first mentioned in this blog post. I've been working on it intermittently since, and finally got it done in a spurt of activity this month. It's out in time for halloween, too!

Really, this is a direct sequel to Ynn. The structure is exactly the same: you roll up locations as you explore deeper, building a map as you go. Some minor tweaks to this, such as the Progress score, minor alterations to running blindly, and what's on the Events table. But nothing huge. If you liked Ynn, you'll like this.
In terms of atmosphere, the Library is likewise similar to Ynn, with many of the same motifs appearing. Genteel yet dangerous environments, old machinary built into the space, mutation and madness. Things skew darker, though. Necromancy gets a big focus. Many of the monsters are ghosts of various forms, some of them the products of almost industrial processing. Other encounters are undead, or use the dead somehow. Similarly, many of the locations in the library feature magic that messes with the soul, and many of the library's machines use phantoms in the same way 20th century technology used electricity. Overall, when I've run it (or bits of it) you alternate between a sort of comfy 'English stately homes' feel, and a sense of subtle creepiness. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a horror game, but it has its spooky moments.
Mechanically, I've abstracted the process of finding specific information in the library to a running 'progress' score that accounts for navigating the place's layout, looking up references, putting facts together, and so on. Every time you read the right books, talk to the right NPCs, etc, you get a little bit closer to your goal. I've found that its fairly intuitive, since it mirrors the 'attrit away HP' mechanics we're familiar with: tot up numbers until you reach a goal.
There's books everywhere in the module. A d100 table for what a given shelf of books is about, and a couple of pages of special books that grant benefits to the reader. Bonuses to attributes in the manner of those old 'manual of bodily health' books, revelatory texts that let you switch class, occult works that let the magician or cleric add spells from the other's list to their own, that sort of thing. Rather than physical mutations, these books let you improve yourself through knowledge.
Lastly, there's a little class at the back, the Mummified Sage. Basically a scholar who's been in the library too long, died, and kept on researching without noticing. They get a little spellcasting (only one spell slot), some advantages for being undead, and a flat chance to recognise anything weird they encounter from their studies.

So, that's about it. Visually, it's a bunch of art nouveau and 19th century stuff mostly. All public domain. I think it works well together. The rest of the layout is pretty simple, with two collumns and big titles. It should work in play.

What now? I'm still hashing out and formalising the system I used to test it. I might bundle that system, this, Ynn and a hub location into a single omnibus. Howl's Moving Castle and Gormenghast are feeling like inspiration here, the players inherit an old magical mansion that they must explore, pacify and master, and which has portals leading to these two pocket dimensions.

So yeah. I'm happy enough with it, and I've had fun running it in tests. It's four bucks on DTRPG. You can get it here.


  1. Replies
      (the module features bandersnatches, which my qt describes as 'probably the creepiest thing you're written'. So there's that.)

  2. This is great! Thanks so much for putting it out there!

  3. A full campaign settinng/adventure being that old mansion filled with portals that lead to places like Ynn or this library would be fantastic. A really golden idea there imo

  4. Awesome! Getting it now. I have an upcoming Ynn game next month, maybe I can organize a Stygian Library delve too at some point!

  5. Got it! Very cool - we need more library adventures!

  6. Purchased the Stygian Library. Another home run, Emmy Allen! As a professional academic librarian and avid OSR gamer, this product lights me up like a Christmas tree. I'm going to use both the Stygian Library and the Garden of Ynn as environments in a game I'm putting together. I'm not sure (yet) if I'm going to have the core rulebook be Esoteric Enterprises (a wonderful modern occult-action set of OSR rules by Emmy Allen, for the uninitiated) or use the more genteel Ghastly Affair rules set published by the talented Daniel Hanley. If Esoteric Enterprises, it will be the 'occult weirdos' of the setting called in to investigate - or opportunistically explore for loot - some weird goings-on in a house or neighborhood that leads to the Library and the Gardens. If Ghastly Affair, the 18th century characters are perhaps invited to the manor house of a wealthy patron who has gone missing, and while checking out his home and grounds, the magical Library and Gardens are discovered. Hey Emmy, if you are reading this...can I ask you an Esoteric Enterprises question? How do you feel about multi-classing in the game? For example, let's say I roll up a Mercenary character, but a few adventures in, I'd really like for her to learn some magic or maybe some Criminal skills. Can my Mercenary detour from that career and take a level or two of Criminal, or Occultist, or Mystic, or what have you? Or maybe get some medical training and be a Mercenary-Doctor? Or even a Spook with an affinity for urban spelunking and becomes an Explorer for the better saving throws and Athletics score? What are you thoughts on multi-classing in Esoteric Enterprises? Thanks Emmy - your stuff is so wonderful! - Brian C. in Massachusetts

    1. Personally I think multiclassing is a mess and the rules aren't written with it in mind.
      Easier I think to just swap classes entirely.
      Also, yay for people liking my stuff.

    2. Hi Emmy - I mention multi-classing in Esoteric Enterprises as I've noticed that, say, a Mercenary with a 1-in-6 chance to Vandalize things will never get any improvements. That might be frustrating for players. But if the Mercenary can detour into the Criminal class for a level or two, that Merc can then put a few points into Vandalism (or whatever) and thus improve their character's abilities and be more rounded. Might be more satisfying for players, no?

    3. Rather than multiclassing I'd just give a mercenary ways to improve their strength or vandalism directly if they go looking for it. Multiclassing messes up the xp tables weirdly.

  7. I bought it as soon as I noticed you released it, I'm super excited!

  8. Will these eventually become print-on-demand?

  9. Printed mine and bound it! Using it as an interlude between two times, big bad sent party into the library to get info on how to get back to their own time.

    I cranked out stat block cards for the bestiary (45 cards, some had to span two cards), but as I'm running 5e (more or less) chars through this, I had to modify a fair bit to make it more 5e friendly. Here: if you want 'em anyway, svg format, should print at 56x87mm if printed right from inkscape or similar.

    Anyway, party's having a blast. To date, the only hostile they've met is a phantom (I kept writing down their damage dealt even though they weren't doing a thing, until one of 'em finally risked using a magic weapon), though they're on thin ice with the red order for leaving books on the floor...

    1. Same dir, made a thing to generate rooms and contents, inspired by (someone's) the Garden generator, but done in bash since I don't know javascript. Should run on any *nix. Output looks like this:

      Current depth: 10

      Books found here:
      Martial Arts Manuals (Elvish)
      Essays on the Classics (Elvish)
      Biographies (Old Common)
      Works discussing Parallel Worlds (Old Elvish)

      If the room is searched, this will be found:
      Empty bottles.

      Skeleton Collection:
      Around a dozen skeletons in glass cases. Wired into position. Labelled neatly.
      The skeletons wired into place in their display cases are those of children.

      The room is uncomfortably warm. Smoke seeps into the air from cracks in the floorboards, from behind furniture and from any other crevice or gap. It's hard to breath in here. Each turn spent breathing the hot, smoky air deals 1 damage.

      If time is spent here actively exploring, this occurs:
      A cache of hidden treasure is found under the floorboards!
      Treasure here: A suit of magical plate-mail that protects against (weapons, natural attacks, fire, electricity, corrosion, poison, spells). Half damage from the thing protected against.

      If they're just passing through, this occurs:
      Something is returning to its home, office, etc, and is surprised to find PCs here.
      An Archivist-Lich (p. 55) shows up

      New depth? wasd or WASD - W = up one, S = down one, A or D remains at same depth.
      Use wasd if the party isn't seen as hostile by the library, WASD if they are.

  10. Really Like the ideas in thes adventures.

    Something im working on in is doing something similar to the role an area adventure, but making it slightly more structured around each stage.

    So for example if the journey is 12 encounters long, each encoutner has 1d3 areas with 1d3 challenges.

    This allows a bit more pacing and structure without losing the random elements of the journey.

    Then in the 'In between' bits (the bits between areas), you can have wandering monster tables, say 3d6 with a monster on any 1 or 2, which can split up the journey a bit more.

    just some idas anyway!

  11. I asked this on the Kickstarter page as well - but figured I should go to the source:

    What is the correct conversion for Occultum? Silver or Gold?

    The Stygian Library

    (Original Publication)

    Treasure (roll d20+Depth)

    Page 67 -

    32. A collection of occultum coins. Occultum is a smoky, glassy metallic substance, magically potent and insanely valuable. You can bribe gods and pur-chase kingdoms with it. D4 coins, each worth depth x 1,000 silver.

    The Gardens of Ynn

    (Original Publication)

    Treasure (roll d20+Depth)

    Page 73 -

    32. A collection of occultum coins. Occultum is a smokey, glassy metallic substance, magically potent and insanely valuable. You can bribe gods and purchase kingdoms with it. D4 coins, each worth depth x 1,000 gold.